The Memphis Grizzlies struggled through their first two playoff games, but the franchise's best regular season isn't a distant memory. Strong player performances keyed a team-record 56 wins and 24 road victories.
Interestingly, they had to ship away their leading scorer to help a few players realize themselves. Jerryd Bayless, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol saw their offensive performances improve after Rudy Gay was packaged.
Also, starters' performances were buoyed by great defense, as they were in the previous two years. Four Grizzlies starters ranked in the top 17 in defensive rating and in the top 15 in defensive win shares.
For the most part, bench players turned in pleasant season performances.
Follow along to see the grades on every Grizzlies player.
Advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
Marc Gasol takes a well-deserved Defensive Player of the Year nod after becoming an impenetrable wall on the inside. He allowed a fifth-best 98.5 points per 100 possessions and placed second with 5.4 defensive win shares.
He leads the way for Zach Randolph on defense and often makes up for Randolph's mistakes.
Gasol has grown to become a great facilitator, averaging four assists per game. On March 3, he offset a poor shooting performance by dishing out 11 assists.
The Spaniard's offense grew after the Rudy Gay trade. He averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists per game after the deal, compared with 13.6 points and 3.6 assists per game beforehand.
He also became a much better free-throw shooter, hitting 84.8 percent from the line, 10 percent better than in 2011-12.
In the second year of a max contract, Gasol is making himself worth the money. The next step in his climb will be breathtaking.
Zach Randolph had a solid season in general. He continued to improve his defense, returned to his normally dominant self on the boards and cut his turnovers a bit.
He had career-bests of 99.5 points allowed per 100 possessions—13th in the league—and an eighth-best 4.7 defensive win shares.
The 12-year pro led the league with 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, placed fourth with 11.2 rebounds per game and fifth with a 19.3 percent total rebounding rate.
Randolph turned it over 2.5 times per 36 minutes, tying a career-low.
Meanwhile, he became less active on offense, averaging 15.4 points per game and taking 14.1 shots per 36 minutes—a career low as a starter. His 46-percent shooting was 4.3 percent worse than what he shot in 2010-11.
If his offense declines more next season, it ultimately means more shifting, which they would have done anyway. That would again probably happen independent of any stagnation on the boards.
Tony Allen might not have been able to beat out Marc Gasol for Defensive Player of the Year or even gain serious discussion, since only two perimeter defenders have won it in the last 25 years.
Still, he deserves applause for raising his defense, even after establishing himself as the best patrol man of the backcourt in the NBA. He allowed a career-best 98.4 points per 100 possessions, fourth in the league.
The leader of the "grit 'n' grind" did it while grabbing fewer steals. He had just two per 36 minutes—his fewest in five years—while placing sixth with a 3.1-percent steal rate.
Allen also rebounded better than ever, pulling down a career-high 4.6 boards per game.
The only reason he isn't an "A+" guy is because his offense is replaceable. He shot 44.5 percent from the field on an unnecessary 8.1 shots per game and made a career-low 71.7 percent from the line.
That will be the mitigating factor in the Tony Allen free-agent sweepstakes come late June. As Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix said, "What's hard to live with are the quick jumpers, the wild drives and the reckless fast breaks."
Mannix went on to say that this may keep him from being a pricy free agent, which could help the Grizz retain the guy by whom they are defined.
Like Marc Gasol, Mike Conley unleashed his inner beast after the Rudy Gay trade. Conley averaged 16.9 points per game after Gay departed, 3.9 more than before he left. Thirteen of his 17 20-point performances occurred after the deal.
He averaged 6.4 assists per game after the trade, compared with 5.8 per game beforehand.
Conley played spectacularly defensively, leading the league in steals, placing third in steals per game (2.2) and fourth in steal rate (3.4). He was 17th in defensive rating, allowing 100.2 points per 100 possessions.
Going forward, Conley and Gasol will be carrying the team on their shoulders as Zach Randolph declines. If the second half of the season was any indicator, that future could include Conley playing a lead-guard role.
The Grizzlies took Tayshaun Prince in the Rudy Gay trade as the guy to plug into Gay's 3-spot and not be a liability offensively. That he did. His numbers weren't pretty, however, as he put up just 8.8 points per game on 42.9 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three-point range.
However, he turned it over on only nine percent of possessions and had a slender 15.2 percent usage rate.
Simply by not touching the ball as much as Gay, he took inefficiency out of the position. In a player who had a 10.5 percent lower usage rate and 4.1 lower turnover rate, they had someone who'd allow others to create.
Prince's defensive metrics weren't quite as good as the other Grizzlies starters, but he still improved his defensive rating to 103 points per 100 possessions from 111 per 100 for the Detroit Pistons before the trade.
The 33-year-old doesn't produce the wins that merit the $7.2 million he'll make in 2013-14, but he at least provides veteran leadership for a team that could be in transition after this postseason.
In mid-January, I advocated trading Jerryd Bayless. At the time, he wasn't the player the Grizzlies had signed in the offseason, averaging 5.3 points per game on 37-percent shooting.
After the Rudy Gay trade, Bayless blew up. He averaged 12.1 points per game the rest of the season.
From Feb. 5 to March 27, he was hot from long range, knocking down 45.2 percent.
Bayless had seven 20-point games, six of which came after the Rudy Gay trade. He put up 30 points against the Boston Celtics on March 23.
Also, Bayless improved his defense, allowing a career-best 103 points per 100 possessions.
The former Toronto Raptor has turned into a great scorer off the bench, but, as Grantland's Zach Lowe pointed out, he fares much worse when he's not playing alongside Mike Conley.
His growth after the trade gives Memphis some confidence in its bench scoring for next season, albeit shaky confidence.
Believing that Darrell Arthur would have jumped to the next level after missing last season with an Achilles tear and the first few weeks of this season with a broken leg would have been excessive.
Still, his tumble is troubling. He averaged just 6.1 points per game on 45.1 percent from the field, 4.6 percent worse than in 2010-11. He pulled down a career-low 2.9 rebounds per game.
Arthur went through a nightmarish stretch in which he went without scoring in double digits for two months (from Jan. 23 to March 23).
The bright spot in his game was his defense, as he allowed 102 points per 100 possessions.
Three Shades of Blue gave a wins-produced listing from theNBAGeek.com, which showed Arthur as having produced the fewest wins of all Grizz players at -1.1. That's based on a projection of -0.054 wins shares per 48 minutes across 970 minutes.
His poor play led to Lionel Hollins playing him 13.9 minutes per game in his last 15 games.
Arthur will need more playoff performances like his nine-point affair in Game 2 and a healthy offseason to become the Grizzlies' top reserve front man again.
Quincy Pondexter stepped his game up in his third season. He has career highs in points per game (6.4), rebounds per game (2.2), three-point field-goal percentage (39.7 percent) and free-throw percentage (78.7 percent). He also had career bests of 114 points per 100 possessions and 104 allowed per 100.
Pondexter shot 42.3 percent from downtown before becoming injured in late December, but shot 36.5 percent after returning in February.
He'll combine with Jerryd Bayless to give the Grizzlies plenty of backcourt shooting off the bench next season.
Ed Davis is thought to be the successor to Zach Randolph, but he's taking some time to develop. Lionel Hollins was slow to put him in the rotation, giving the former Toronto Raptor 9.8 minutes per game in Feburary, in which he amounted 4.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.
After becoming a regular in March, Davis' production rose. He averaged 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the last 24 contests.
His defense improved after arriving in Memphis. He allowed 96 points per 100 possessions for the Grizz, compared with 105 per 100 for the Raptors. He went from blocking 1.3 shots per 36 minutes in Toronto to 3.1 per 36 for Memphis.
He had a couple hot games late in the season. That includes a 12-point, 10-rebound performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 2 and an 11-point, 11-rebound affair against the Dallas Mavericks on April 15.
Davis has some clear deficiencies. For example, he lack of size makes him less imposing on the glass than Randolph. Also, he's reliant on shooting at the rim. He took 43 percent of his shots at the rim and made 68.4 percent from point-blank range.
He shot 45.7 percent from between three and 10 feet and 43.9 percent from between 10 and 16 feet.
With his game still developing, the Grizz shouldn't be in a hurry to get this 2010 lottery pick in the lineup.
Not liking Austin Daye is difficult for fans, as Memphians discovered after he was acquired from the Detroit Pistons in the Rudy Gay deal. He's tall, long, can shoot and defend in short minutes.
Daye played decent ball after arriving from Detroit. He averaged four points and 1.9 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game while shooting 42.3 percent.
He gave Grizzlies fans plenty of hope in February, averaging six points and two rebounds on 51.1 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point range.
In the last two months of the season, Daye lost his three-point touch. He hit 29.4 percent in March and 27.8 percent in April.
He also shot 36.3 percent from the field in the last 21 games of the season.
The fourth-year pro scored in double figures four times, three of which came in February. On Feb. 10, he put up 16 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Daye defended well, allowing 99 points per 100 possessions. He put his long arms to good use, swatting multiple shots four times.
He may be a nice rotation player for several more years, but the Grizzlies should spend less than the $2.95 million he earned this season if they want to keep him. Teams don't need to spend more than a couple million on a guy who plays strong defense and sometimes hits threes in 10 or 15 minutes per game.
Tony Wroten didn't do much to disprove what his scouting report foreshadowed. DraftExpress.com noted that he would take some time to reach his potential.
Wroten had trouble controlling the ball, as expected. He averaged 3.8 turnovers per 36 minutes. He coughed it up seven times, including three games in which he played less than six minutes.
The Washington product had three games with eight points or more, but just one without turning it over a few times. He scored eight points and had five rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes.
He also didn't shoot well, knocking down just 38 percent from the field.
Wroten could take some steps towards becoming a decent player, but his dribbling skills must come along.
Jon Leuer isn't the fan favorite that Hamed Haddadi was, but he does a fair job of holding up the end of the bench. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in 5.1 minutes per game across 19 games after landing in Memphis as part of a four-player deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Half of his 34 points scored while wearing the three shades of blue came in two games. He scored six points while pulling down four rebounds in 17 minutes against the Orlando Magic on March 3.
On April 9, the Wisconsin product tallied 11 points to go with five rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes to help put away the Charlotte Bobcats.
His play left many Memphis observers awestruck. That included Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer, who captured the oddity via Twitter.
Austin Daye no-looks from halfcourt to Jon Leuer for a spinning hoop-and-harm. That's right.— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) April 10, 2013
Keyon Dooling didn't disappoint in the short time he had with the Grizz before the playoffs. He averaged a respectable 4.4 points on 47.6 percent shooting in 11.7 minutes per game.
Dooling posted strong performances in the last two games. He scored 13 points on 4-of-5 from three-point range in 24 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks on April 15. In the finale against the Utah Jazz, he had six points and two assists in 16 minutes.
Memphis signed him to be a steady backup point guard who could handle the ball since it didn't have a true caretaker behind Mike Conley. While his turnover rate was 17.2 percent, he didn't have a game with multiple turnovers.